This is the second of new RWC blog series on employability of young people. With these pieces and as a young researcher, I will try to pass on my insights and experience aiming to give a guideline to all young professionals who are seeking information on how to start their career in the field of market research.
Market research is a field offering unlimited potential for organisations or companies that wish to deliver value for its members or clients. Research reveals the state of an organisation, its industry and competitors positioning, what the members or customers expect from it, what the general public is looking for. However, it seems society is not aware of the true value and contributions market research brings. The same problem applies to the general youth, with the next generation of professionals not being exposed enough to the industry thus failing to understand its importance.
While some young people are aware of the existence of the industry, they are not aware of the actual possible applications, the industry sub-areas, innovation opportunities and value of research. I believe the source of this awareness problem lies within the education system and the penetration of market research representatives in the academic world. Young professionals are not made aware properly by their academic institutions about the industry. Market research is rarely taught as a core module in universities and usually only in some marketing degrees. I personally studied a management degree in a prestigious university but I was never taught any core market research module. I was never exposed to the field by the time I had my first trainee position in the marketing industry.
Due to its wide range of relevancy, I do think that market research should be taught in various modules, ranging from psychology to business and information systems, where students from different disciplines can find a pathway in this multidisciplinary industry that provides opportunities for various career directions. Furthermore, the number of Master’s programmes available in the field globally is only 37, from which 6 are online programs and only 3 are in Europe (Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium)1. Thus, it is pretty straightforward that greater effort to incorporate and boost market research exposure to universities needs to be put. Ideally, this should be made not only from the side of industry organisations but also from the side of research companies aiming to attract the best talents from different disciplines at an early stage.
In my opinion, industry organisations and research companies should make an effort and go talk to university students as frequently as they can. As a young professional now but also as a student I was often attending corporate talks and events held within the university to inform myself. I was curious to find out about new areas, new activities and professions, getting to know people from the industry. I was often approaching speakers after the presentation, asking for more information about a topic that grasped my attention or for professional advice. I highly valued these conversations because I knew that they represented direct insights from the industry. I still remember talking to a writer and industry expert in a university event, about the potential of the topic he addressed while presenting and ended up having a wonderful conversation about new social behaviours and the role of companies in the new landscape. I highly valued this conversation that inspired me to drive my career towards an understanding of behavioural actions.
It is essential to approach more students and raise awareness of the industry within the academic institutions through career events, internship programmes and scholarships at an early stage of the students’ academic career. Moreover, it is important to find the appropriate touch-points of content exposure and communicate the industry’s insights and innovation through library and other study materials. I intuitively believe that research companies can play an important role in promoting the industry by, for example, giving classes with their practices in the academic programs. Whenever I was taught a university module by a professional, I learnt about the actual applications, going beyond theoretical models that reflected real work practices that I was able to use in my professional career.
From a young professional’s point of view, being taught about real-work practices by business professionals is an invaluable experience. This approach of bringing businesses to school should be adopted not only in marketing degrees but generally in all related disciplines, such as psychology, statistics, information systems, neuroscience, economics, media and journalism.
Another way to boost awareness of the industry would be to launch a certification programme affiliating with some academic institutions. Thus, graduates can finish their studies with some extra skills in the resume (market research skills) that would be appealing for every potential employer in the wider research related community. Despite raising awareness and providing industry training to young potential MR professionals, such programs would facilitate the hiring process for both sides: students are certified with knowledge even if they have studied something completely different, e.g. information systems, and companies are ensured they are taking on board the right talents that are already properly exposed to industry standards.
As it stands today, I am convinced that the market research industry is not correctly communicated to the next generation of young researchers. Young people are not exposed enough to the industry through their academic institutions. It is absolutely critical for industry organisations and research companies to identify all the effective touch-points to approach new talents in various fields ensuring they can capture the future research innovators and business leaders.
- Degree Programs in Marketing Research and Market Research. Quirk’s marketing research media. (http://www.quirks.com/directory/Marketing_Research_Degrees.aspx)
Helene Protopapas is IE Business School graduate student in Market Research & Consumer Behaviour. Connect with her via @elenaprot
By Finn Raben & Laurent Flores
During my evolution and development as a working researcher, it was a fundamental requirement that when providing a client with research results, the findings be presented as possible actions (or solutions), in the context of the business challenge that prompted the research in the first place. This was considered good research practice!
Nowadays, I notice that increasingly such actionable information is being referred to as “insight” or “consumer intelligence”, and “research” is referred to in a slightly more derogatory tone.
Isn’t such actionable information, insight or consumer intelligence, always based on the compilation of relevant data, objective analysis using appropriate rigour, and translation of the results obtained into the commercial context? Isn’t this research?
Yes, methodologies have changed; yes, data sources have evolved, and yes, rigour needs to be fit for purpose, but the demand for relevant data, analysed and interpreted in a contextual manner, and presented as a series of potential business solutions is what good researchers do and becomes even more important in this age of data abundance.
A good “data scientist” will need to be a good statistician and a good consumer intelligence person is likely to be a good researcher…let us not devalue the term research, rather let us take back full ownership of the term and celebrate it! Let us garner respect for the tools, techniques and competences that are part of our research armory.
To mis-quote Dylan Thomas:
Do not go gentle into that good night…..rage, rage against the dying of the light
Rage against the dilution of what this profession has been doing excellently for the last 80 years; rage against those whose lack of professionalism does our reputations no good and rage against those who have claimed that research is “dead” or redundant!
This is not to understate the size of the challenge that lies ahead: the misrepresentation of opinion polls by the media can confuse citizens about what constitutes professional research; programmes such as The Apprentice that ask their contestants to do “research”, which comprises short, unstructured and often misguided interviews on the street with a handful of people, clearly devalue our profession’s expertise.
And when you consider that organisations that might deal solely with digital advertising are now proclaiming to lead the debate on digital research, is it any wonder that people are confused about our professional standing?
By analogy, veterinarians can conduct surgical operations but if you have a heart murmur and need a valve replacement, would you be comfortable if a veterinarian were to conduct the operation? This is not to devalue what vets do, but rather to set the professional discipline and expertise of research in the right context!
So, whether you are in the business of “consumer guidance”, “insights” or “market intelligence”, remember that these are all disciplines that are grounded in research. Do not shy away from the term; do not undervalue the term, and do not let someone else take ownership of it.
The value of research has always been well known, but now it seems to be becoming less clear and open to debate. So do shout loud about it, do share the benefits of it, and do extol its wonders to the next generation and the general public. That way, our future and that of our profession will remain positive.
Finn Raben is Director General of ESOMAR.
Laurent Flores is ESOMAR President.
What’s the industry like for the new blood? Katie Aylward and Samantha Bond, two young researchers at Northstar Research share why they find the industry compelling and discuss the opportunities available for those entering the profession.
It’s common knowledge that market research is in a transitionary phase, as the industry tries to secure a place in a crowded market. Here Martina Olbertova looks at the 5 research myths holding research back from using its full potential.
The latest annual Cambiar Capital Funding Index shows that investment is on the rise for the market research, analytics and information industry. But whilst funding for market research stays stable, what has really surged is investment in marketing analytics. Find out where the money is going